I'm a bit of a nurturer and maybe a slight control freak. It's so hard to let go! I actually worry about who will do the things I normally do, like pick the dog dishes off of the floor and put them in the sink because my teenager will stand next to these aforementioned dishes and do everything in the sink and call it done. Who will pick up the paper towels from the bathroom floor in the ELC (work) while I'm gone? Maybe these are the little things that will create the voids where I normally leave my touch. These are the intersections where people might miss me.
I know as I travel I will keep saying to myself, "I wish Steve could see this with me." I went through this during my trips to Maine to see my sister Veronica. I will take on a whole new culture of experiences with my friends that he will be excluded from. Do you know how each couple and each family has it's own micro-culture? You have shared experiences that no one else has. You've seen the same movies, experienced the same comically horrible waitresses, gasped as the bed broke out from under you unexpectedly, held your baby for the first time, laughed at the same public spectacles or cried at the same tragedies. One look or one word, and you don't even have to say anything to explain how you're feeling. It's understood. It binds you like nothing else can.
If an outsider wonders what you're grinning at, you have to explain it and they may enjoy it in the way an interloper can. It's a cheaper version of the real thing. And so, that is all I can offer my life partner and my friends, including my dear friend Sarah Lee who we were hoping could join me in England. A cheaper version of my experiences. For that, I do feel a bit bad.
I'll be missing my boys (Stephen 17 and Carsten 14) more than anything I can describe. I've enjoyed watching them grow up to be fine, smart and sensitive young men. Stephen is working for the Housing department on campus here at the University of Arkansas and continues to make me so proud with his work ethic, exceeding all expectations. I will really miss our shared love of alternative rock and our talks, especially his off-beat sense of humor.
Carsten is "away" at camp, ha ha. He's actually in the Upward Bound Math and Science Academy Summer Camp which happens to be at the University as well. In school, he was accelerated ahead a grade a few years back, and yet one of his instructors said that he was far more mature than his peers in his class and will do very well. I also got to see him interacting with his peers and he is bright and funny. He also is doing well and enjoying his first real job working for a local nursery, weeding and watering the plants. He possibly wants to be a landscape architect, so this is a great experience for him!
It will be hard to not have them with me and so disappointing that I can't expand their horizons. But, I do plan on taking them with me on a family trip in a couple of years. I'm plotting already.....
In preparation for this trip, I plan on only carrying what I can carry on my back. I'll be gone six weeks. My friends are laughing at me. Okay, I will admit that I plan on shipping a box of necessities over to the University because I have no idea what products I can get there and I have allergies and other special needs. I am highly allergic to most soaps, detergents, shampoos and deodorants. I know there's stuff I'll be able to use over there, but it will take a while to learn what these are and where I can get them. You have no idea what it will be like to not be able to run over to the Walgreens on Sixth and South School on the way home from work and go directly to aisle three and pick up exactly the product I need by recognizing the name brand, the shape and color of the bottle, etc. I can be in and out of there in a few minutes.
I won't even have a car over there! I doubt there's a Walgreens on the way to anything and I think I'll be doing a lot of label reading. So this will be my care package from home, from myself. No chocolate chip cookies from mommy. I'm allergic to chocolate, too, so it's all good. On future trips, I'm sure I'll laugh at how much I shipped over and feel silly about it, but this time I'm playing it safe.
This one-bag frame of mind was inspired by my Aunt Veronica who insists that you travel everywhere with just one carry on bag, and she's a world traveler and knows these things. Also, if you read "Six Months Walking the Wilds (of Western Europe)" by Steve Cooper, you will see that it can be done. His book makes me think I might retire to the Ligurian coast of Italy, opening up a hostel somewhere along the El Camino de Santiago. Doesn't that sound romantic? And why not? Dream large! What is life without our dreams and aspirations?
If you haven't been listening to your dreams lately, you need to. Life is short, way too short. I've lost so many dear friends and family over the years, but especially lately. I would like to think that a combination of hitting my forties (can you say midlife crisis?) and this sense of loss has driven me to shed the shackles of mediocrity and live a more authentic life. To me, life is not worth living otherwise. I don't just exist; I make things happen. I'm not passively buffeted by life. I am moving mountains.
And before I end today's boring blog, I will share a few other random thoughts that are going through my head. I know you'll either find this funny or be shocked, but here goes. Some of my close friends and family know of my fondness for cussing. Yep, there ya have it. As I go off on this journey, I was thinking that without my disapproving husband and children and certain of my purer friends and family, I will feel free to cuss with abandon if I want to. Well, I doubt that. I'll be roomies with some young souls who look rather like Bambi (from the Disney movie, not where your mind probably just went). So, I may have to keep this penchant of mine under wraps for a while. I'll keep you updated on this front. I don't know why it pleases me to let loose with a string of profanity, but I find it immensely freeing and I really appreciate the folks I can do this around. I will miss your company Slee!
The other random thought and probably odd obsession of mine is the pursuit of comfortable underwear. This has been a large consideration in preparing for this trip. I live by the mantra that life is too short to wear uncomfortable underwear. Can you imagine how it could ruin your day? Not gonna let that happen! :)
See ya'll when I get back in August. In the meantime, I hope you're at least a little entertained by my ramblings. Much love!